Grammy award winning singer and songwriter Robyn Rihanna Fenty was presented with the 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year award by the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations.
“So I made it to Harvard,” Rihanna jokingly said as she began her acceptance speech. “Never thought I’d be able to say that in my life, but it feels good.” The Intercultural and Race Relations Foundation has recognized Rihanna’s work in her native island of Barbados and the charities she has founded over the years.
“Rihanna has charitably built a state-of- the-art center for oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat breast cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados,” said Dr. S. Allen Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation.
Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation, named after her grandparents, is a nonprofit organization that has been working to support the schooling of children in impoverished communities across the globe since 2012. Luxury fashion house Dior will also help extend Rihanna’s philanthropic reach by donating a portion of the sales of their feminist slogan tees to the foundation.
In 2014, Rihanna became the Global Partnership for Education Global Ambassador to help convince Canada to pledge $20 million to the Education Cannot Wait Fund. “It is for these philanthropic initiatives and other acts of compassionate sharing that the students and faculty of the Harvard Foundation chose to honor Rihanna with the 2017 Humanitarian of the Year Award,” Dr. S. Allen Counter said.
Rihanna explained in her acceptance speech of when she was a young girl and watched commercials about how a quarter could help save a child’s life. “I would think to myself, ‘I wonder how many 25 cents I could save up to save all the kids in Africa.’ And I would say to myself, ‘When I grow up and I get rich, I’m gonna save kids all over the world.’ I just didn’t know I would be in a position to do that by the time I was a teenager,” she laughed.
“All you need to do is help one person, expecting nothing in return. To me, that is a humanitarian.” She added, “What that little girl watching those commercials didn’t know is that you don’t have to be rich to be a humanitarian, you don’t have to be rich to help somebody. You don’t have to be famous, you don’t even have to be college educated. But it starts with your neighbor… you just do whatever you can to help in any way that you can.”